Govt to send 36 ministers to Jammu and Kashmir after release of leaders, internet restoration

As apprehensions rose in the state about possible demographic changes in the valley after abrogation of Article 370, Government was quick to rush in with assurances.

Government’s decision to send 36 ministers in different sensitive regions of Jammu and Kashmir to spread awareness about the “benefits” of abrogating of Article 370 and 35A provisions and the subsequent trickling in of development activities by the central government has come at the back of selective restoration of internet services and periodic release of detained political leaders.

The move of sending the Union Ministers to different districts of the state comes amid a realization within the party and the government that existing scenario in the state cannot be continued for an indefinite period and sooner than later the political process has to be kick-started as the lockdown of either communication or politics in Kashmir cannot be a permanent affair.

On Thursday itself, five more political leaders—three from National Conference and two from PDP were released.  A fortnight back also five detained leaders—two from NC, one from Congress and two from PDP were released. Earlier on November 25, two political leaders—one from PDP and one Democratic Party Nationalist were released.

A week ago 16 envoys of different countries were made to visit the valley.

On this Wednesday, the state administration has restored broadband services in government offices in the state even as the ban on social media continues. 

This was days after the Supreme Court On Friday last observed that the use of internet enjoyed constitutional protection as a tool for freedom of speech and expression and to carry on business and profession while it directed the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review forthwith all orders related to suspending communication services and restricting assembly of people.

BJP, however, still feels that there is a need go slow and be cautious as far as restoring mobile internet services are concerned as troublemakers can utilize this to fan unrest.

But as ministers will pan out across the state, to be precise at 51 locations between January 18 and January 24, the real question is how they convince the people of the valley about the abrogation of Article 370 which is an emotional issue.

The government which also took away the state status of Jammu and Kashmir and turned it into a Union Territory intends to restore it as soon as the normalcy returns and that could be a bait which local leaders could latch on.

As apprehensions rose in the state about possible demographic changes in the valley after abrogation of Article 370, Government was quick to rush in with assurances.

Congress leader Kapil Sibal, is however, critical of the government’s moves.

“Amit Shah says all is normal in Kashmir If so, why send 36 propagandists to Kashmir ? Why not allow non-propagandists to go and understand the situation prevailing there,” Sibal said.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, who visited the valley a number of times after abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, was also dismissive of the ministers’ reach out and wondered whom will they meet there.

Azad a former Union Minister also recalled that two foreign delegations have also been to the state recently and they only met those people who have been sent there by the central government and told what to say.

Congress had dismissed the visit of foreign envoys as “political tourism” and asked the government to instead start meaningful political activities.

Clearly the challenges are deep and long-drawn but the government is moving in a calibrated manner. There is a view in the party that while a new leadership will definitely emerge in the valley in the course to come and they are hopeful that this will happen through grass-root elections like local bodies polls, this does mean that the existing old leadership in the valley will become irrelevant. At some point, the government will have to draft them in a larger strategy.

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